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Science. 2015 Jan 16;347(6219):250-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1258732.

The roller coaster flight strategy of bar-headed geese conserves energy during Himalayan migrations.

Author information

1
School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK.
2
School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK. c.bishop@bangor.ac.uk l.hawkes@exeter.ac.uk.
3
Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.
4
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
5
Office of the Dean of Graduate Research, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia.
6
Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.
7
Emergency Prevention System(EMPRES) Wildlife and Ecology Unit, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy.
8
Department of Biology, McMaster University, Ontario, Ontario, Canada.
9
San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station, Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Vallejo, CA 94592 USA.
10
Max Planck Institüt für Ornithologie, Radolfzell, Germany. Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.
11
School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

Abstract

The physiological and biomechanical requirements of flight at high altitude have been the subject of much interest. Here, we uncover a steep relation between heart rate and wingbeat frequency (raised to the exponent 3.5) and estimated metabolic power and wingbeat frequency (exponent 7) of migratory bar-headed geese. Flight costs increase more rapidly than anticipated as air density declines, which overturns prevailing expectations that this species should maintain high-altitude flight when traversing the Himalayas. Instead, a "roller coaster" strategy, of tracking the underlying terrain and discarding large altitude gains only to recoup them later in the flight with occasional benefits from orographic lift, is shown to be energetically advantageous for flights over the Himalayas.

PMID:
25593180
DOI:
10.1126/science.1258732
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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